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Domain Name of the Game

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By Kevin Vo '03 and Ammar Kubba '93, Photos by Walter Lockwood

Published Oct 1, 2009 11:00 AM


Time was, kids wanted to be cowboys. Then astronauts. Reporters. Rock stars. And now: technology entrepreneurs. The time is right for tips on how to launch and maintain an online business. And here they are, courtesy of Kevin Vo and Ammar Kubba, chief executive officer and chief strategy officer, respectively, of Thought Convergence, Inc., a leading global domain company that helps customers buy, sell and research Internet domain names.

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Getting Started

The best way to get started in any business venture is to identify what you're passionate about. Passion allows you to keep going in the face of setbacks and adversity. Whether you're a sports figure or a technical guru, tapping into your passion will allow you to dig deep and unlock the work ethic and mindset required to win. It's equally important to do your research in order to be properly prepared for what lies ahead. Knowledge provides you with a road map and passion gives you the drive to get there.

Partnering Up

We had been friends for several years. We met while working on the same floor in an office building in West L.A. Kevin decided to start Thought Convergence, Inc., in 2002 after a period of creating domain-related software on a contract basis. He realized that he could provide a service for people and make a percentage of their overall income, rather than simply working for small fees one job at a time. After 18 successful months, Kevin decided to take it to the next level and needed a partner whose strengths would excel in the areas where the company could stand to grow. Ammar was the logical fit, and he was up for the challenge. Together we were able to grow the company at breakneck speed.

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Kevin Vo, '03.

Divide and Conquer

We complement each other really well, which is one of our keys to success. Kevin has the technical background and oversees programming, product refinement and R&D. Ammar has a J.D. and acute business acumen, allowing him to manage all aspects of legal, marketing and strategy initiatives. Our partnership works because we have complete confidence in the other's abilities. This allows us to focus on projects and trust that other aspects of the business are being properly handled.

A Tech Entrepreneur's Best Friend

The best resources for tech entrepreneurs are the Internet, forums on related topics, social websites and bookstores. The networking opportu-nities that social sites provide are invaluable. Utilize this platform and reach out to as many people as possible. The number of people willing to share their insight and expertise may surprise you. Also bookstores, which may surprise a lot of people since we're Internet entrepreneurs. However, despite the fact that you can find almost anything you need on the Internet, bookstores still serve their purpose. They provide an atmosphere that allows you to truly delve into the material. It's important to carve out the proper physical and mental space when working on your start-up business plan.

Capital Ideas

The amount of start-up capital required depends on the type of business you're looking to launch. Thought Convergence, Inc. opened its doors with only a couple thousand dollars spent on computer equipment. Our model had low entry costs and high gross margins. Sites such as Facebook and YouTube require large amounts of bandwidth in order to be successful, which will drive up your initial costs. A cost-efficient way to start a tech venture is to leverage applications on other platforms (e.g., iPhone apps). A viable company can be started for as little as the cost of a cup of coffee a month; you basically only need a domain name and you're in business.

Basics Are the Basics

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Ammar Kubba, '93.

The day-to-day operations of running a tech company can vary from other types of businesses. However, the fundamentals for success are the same for any business: location, location, location. When dealing with the Internet, this translates to single-word, premium domain names. Securing a memorable domain name is key to driving traffic. This is equivalent to opening a storefront on a busy street. If you open your store on a not-so-busy street, or with a less-than-stellar domain name, you must be willing to aggressively market your business in order to drive significant traffic.

Know thy Domain

Running any company requires you to know your business from every angle. To start an online company, you need to know how the Inter-net works. That means understanding where your audience is coming from, how to market to these individuals, and the interplay between search engines and online businesses. This will help you understand how to grow and market your company. Ultimately, you will want to build a product that will sell itself and will spread by word of mouth. However, before your business becomes viral, you will need to get it in front of the right prospects; this requires knowledge of your audience and how to reach them.

Make Adjustments

Our advice to young technology entrepreneurs is to be dynamic enough to adjust to market needs. Technology is ever-evolving; therefore, it's a must to stay abreast of current trends. It's also beneficial to know when to press on and when to cut your losses. An entrepreneur can never be so emotionally invested in a plan that he or she refuses to change course in the face of contrary evidence. That being said, it's important to understand the momentum in either direction; whether it's in your favor or against you. This will allow you to scale it out when times are good and address the issues when times are bad.

Get Socially Active

Ironically, we believe that the successful technology businesses of tomorrow will be the ones that aren't generating tons of money today; namely, social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Skype. These sites have been ├╝ber-successful at scaling out connectivity. Their immense popularity positions these sites as tremendous marketing tools capable of disseminating information to the masses in a matter of seconds. Once these sites figure out the monetization component, they will see incredible profits.

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